Get Discussions Off the Ground with Bite Questions

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How would you put that in your own words?  What was the most important idea in that passage?  What do you think happened next?  Questions like these are the base-level questions you should be using to help students take the first bite out of a passage or teaching through your discussion rather than just asking them to parrot back what happened.

What they are:

Bite questions ask students to perform a very basic level of comprehension processing on the ideas presented.  By asking them to restate, explain, interpret or make predictions based on the ideas presented in a passage or teaching, they have to put them into their own language framework and clear up any misunderstandings they had when they initially heard the teaching.

How they can go bad:

These are good questions, but like parrot questions, they can serve as a hindrance if you don’t go any deeper.  When you take too much time here, you are sacrificing time at more advanced levels of processing.

The other major pitfall is taking bites of everything. Some ideas are simple and easy to understand.  if you spend time processing them at this level it will feel simplistic or even insulting.

How to use them well:

Using these questions well generally starts with paying attention to the age of your students.  The younger they are, the smaller their mouths are and the more little bites they will need to take before they have all the content ready to chew.  From there, you need to ask how complicated or confusing is the passage or concepts you are trying to convey.  The more complicated, the more bites you will need.

After you have thought through your audience and big topic, its time to decide which parts need bite questions and which do not.  Look through the passage or teaching and take the most complicated pieces and create a bite question to help make sure that students understand those ideas.  Once you have established this basic level of comprehension, you will be able to move forward into the more transformative levels.


When he is not playing with his four children with his wonderful wife, Jeremy oversees children, youth, and college ministries in addition to leading the evening worship service at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, Al. He is passionate about reaching people with the message of Jesus in a way that engages them with the movement of God. Jeremy is the Senior Editor of the Seedbed Youth Ministry Collective and the author of Reclaiming the Lost Soul of Youth Ministry. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches at his website: